Monday, November 26, 2012

Progress Report 11/26/12

With 2012 winding down, we are fast approaching a rare but highly enjoyable moment: the fizzle of another doomsday prediction. There have been a few of these in my lifetime, and I always relish them. It fuels my inner optimism.

So in this season of thanksgiving, I'll phrase the other aspects of my update in terms of gratitude:

I'm grateful for my new colleagues in the critique groups I've joined. I'm in one that meets in person and another that meets online. The incentive to write and the feedback are equally important.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to publish... I've got another agent considering my work, and with any luck I'll have some good news on that front to report.

I'm grateful for our vacation in Hawaii, which lived up to its billing as a paradise on earth. A paradise with dangerous volcanoes, typhoons, tsunami... but hey, why says paradise has to be boring? In fact, it shouldn't be. We had a great time. I snorkeled with dolphins.

I'm grateful that our horse, Sirah, pulled through a rather dangerous bout of pneumonia, brought on by a frightening and aptly-named condition called "choke." She seems to be out of the woods now, so that's a huge relief.

I'm grateful for my friends and family, including those of the four-legged variety.

I'm grateful for having a job that I love.

And most of all, I'm grateful for Candi, my wife, my friend, and my true companion.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Progress Report 10/15/12

Nothing to report on the publishing front, but on the plus side I joined a new critique group. It's something I've been eager to do for quite a while, but I couldn't seem to find the right fit.

I was in a group for several years, and while I enjoyed a great deal of it and liked the people, there was one significant issue that kept it from being as useful as it could've been. Nobody else in the group wrote the same sort of things I did (fantasy and SF). They were writers of what the publishers call literary fiction.

The odd part about this was that they really liked reading the things I wrote. They would delight at the introduction of a new world or a weird speculative idea. I tried to suggest that maybe they'd enjoy reading some more fantasy & SF, but somehow this never made a dent. I never did understand that. I'll read pretty much anything so long as it's sufficiently engaging.

Have a vacation coming up soon, and I'm looking forward to it. Hawaii, no less. My first trip overseas. And it's really a research trip as well... the follow-up to Dragon Waking takes place, in part, in Hawaii.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Progress Report -- 9/10/12

Just got back from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, which was terrific. I was a finalist for their annual novel contest in the Young Adult category... didn't win, but making it to the finals is pretty good stuff. Even better, I made some excellent connections with agents and some other writers.

Most of all, I was inspired. Which was really what I needed most. Life has been crazy, busy, and generally hostile towards writing lately, so I was really jonesing for a powerful injection of creative inspiration. And I got it. I'm still buzzing.

The obstacles are still there, both internal and external, but I've now got quite a few ideas about how to blast through them. I'm shaping the charges and getting the fuses lit. Cover your ears...

Monday, August 6, 2012


So. The Olympics. I think that the short version is that I love the games, pretty much detest the coverage.

Now, the on-demand thing is pretty awesome, especially if you're interested in some of the lower profile sports. Being able to see any event you want is a tremendous boon.

The other boon about that is that the lower profile sports don't seem to have the attention from the NBC announcers, which is all to the good. Candi was watching Show Jumping, and there was almost no announcer at all. You just got to watch the competition without anybody saying anything at all. Blissful.

Especially detest the gymnastics announcers. With their ghoulish delight in the suffering of the athletes, their insight-deficient blabber that adds nothing, and their tiresome myopia about the American competitors, these guys just flat-out suck. Then there's Andrea Kramer, the interviewer who seems to specialize in asking questions designed to screw with an athlete's head. Just go away, all of you.

The games themselves are great. I've always been a sort of Olympics junkie.

Something occurred to me while watching the gymnasts this year: professional golfers can just bite me. The thing that's so silly in the PGA is how silent everyone is for every shot. The announcer speak in their hushed whispers, the crowd holds its breath... I remember there was some stupidly huge controversy about some golfer missing a put because someone's shadow came into his line of sight at the critical moment. Oh, oh, poor thing.

Meanwhile, the gymnasts are out there doing these heart-stopping maneuvers that require an absolute degree of concentration, and the place is a zoo. All the different events are going on at once, there's huge bursts of applause and loud music from the floor apparatus... and it all goes on during the middle of your routine. If a giant blaring Rachmaninoff chord suddenly blasts through your ears while you're trying to do a hands-free flip along a four-inch wide balance beam, that's just how it goes. Keep your focus, kiddo, and try to make it look effortless.

Golfers. Piffle.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Progress Report: 7/23/12

The big time-consuming thing right now is that we have found a new house, and are now in the midst of moving in. It's very near our old place (about 6 blocks or so), but it's a real house this time, not a townhouse. With a yard and everything. So that's cool.

Here's the writing news that I haven't reported yet, because it's not quite news at this point. So about four weeks ago, a publisher asked to see my full manuscript for Dragon Waking. Which is a huge and exciting step up from the typical "Sorry, not interested," that I generally get after submitting my query letter and sample. But it's still not really woo-hoo! time. I will post that news with great enthusiasm if they decide to publish.

Meanwhile, fingers crossed. Twiddle, twiddle.

I will be attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' conference this September, which is coming up pretty fast.

Oh, and Candi and I will have our 19th anniversary tomorrow. I believe that is officially known as the "Dark Tower" anniversary.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Progress Report: 6/18/12

A big shout-out to my friend Sharon Bayliss. She's publishing her first novel! It's called The Charge.

I had the privilege of reading some of Sharon's early drafts of her novel and offering some C&C. In the process, she demonstrated a lot of traits that I think are essential for a writer who wants to succeed.

One trait is perseverance. Sharon actually got shot down by all sorts of agents, and ultimately went directly to the publisher, who gave the project the green light. This story runs contrary to a lot of the wisdom I've heard about needing an agent. Hmm... interesting.

Another trait is a willingness to change her own work. Between the last draft that I saw and the one that got published, Sharon took her story back into drydock and did some major refits. She changed the setting significantly and reoriented the whole narrative to focus on a different main character. These were changes that made the story stronger.

I see a lot of writers who aren't willing to do that. I think one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a writer is that their work gets too precious to them. Every idea must be cherished, every decision preserved and defended against those who would dare edit it. I've heard writers talk about writing as an act of supreme vulnerability, of exposing your soul to others... and while that's true, it doesn't mean that any change to your work is somehow a violation of your deepest self. I could go on in this vein for some time, but the point is that writing is a blend of inspiration and craft, and that the craft part must involve a willingness to knock down some walls, sand surfaces into different shape, punch through the floor, and do all the dirty remodeling work that turns your story into something worth reading.

Sharon did that, and I hope I can be as courageous as she was in reshaping her work. The version I read was a very good story. I'm looking forward to reading the final result.

As for me... ever have one of those moments where just as you're hitting the SEND button on an email, you've realize just a moment too late that you've made a mistake? Yeah, I did that last week. Sent off a query to an agent and misspelled her name. I sent to "Kimberly," not "Kimberley." Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Let's hope she's the forgiving sort.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Progress Report: 5/21/12

Here I am looking at my previous post, and realizing that it pretty much describes exactly describes what's going on with me right now. So... yeah. If there's progress being made, it's slow and not too interesting.

So okay, what am I reading? That should at least be different.

Does anybody else make a list of books that you want to get around to someday, but then new stuff comes out and you keep reading that instead? That's what I tend to do. But I hit a lull in the new book schedule, so it gave me a chance to go back and read Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I'd heard good things about this book for a long time, but somehow it got by me for the last 23 years or so.

Glad I finally caught up. The dude writes a gripping story.

Hyperion has a Canterbury Tales structure, which is a great device if you can pull it off. Simmons makes each character's story add to the setting and mythos, and of course gives you insight into the person who's telling it. He also manages to spin your head on its axis every time. And when we reach the final story, just when you think you've got the hang of this world and the kind of revelations it tends to throw at you, he manages to ratchet up the stakes again... in a way that is unexpected, but suddenly makes perfect sense of much of what came before.

Damn good writing. I immediately plunged into the next book, The Fall of Hyperion, which does not disappoint. Simmons doesn't try to repeat the Canterbury Tales motif, which is a good call... the story no longer called for it. The story carries you along like a bullet train.

So it's good when there's nothing new coming out that you want to read. There's treasure in those backlog lists.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Progress Report: 4/16/12

It's been a very busy time recently. We are in the process of looking for a new house, which means packing up all the stuff in our old home and getting it ready to move. And... stuff, man. It's freakin' everywhere. It accumulates seemingly on its own, as if in accord with the old theories about spontaneous generation.

Writing-wise, I've decided that if I don't get a new agent and some progress by end of 2012, I'm going the small-press route with Dragon Waking and trying my luck that way. Publishing is a changing field, so the options for reaching an audience on your own are better today than they've ever been. Meanwhile, I'm still querying along.

And writing, of course.

Monday, March 12, 2012


We had to say goodbye to a beloved friend this week. This is Arya.

She was about 14 years old, and this Saturday she finished her time here as a cat.

We got Arya when she was somewhere around 6-8 months old. Candi was actually checking on the status of another cat that we'd found abandoned. We had two cats and a dog at the time already and it seemed like enough, so we turned the stray into the humane society--with the caveat that if the stray didn't find a home quickly, we'd adopt him. Well, the stray was adopted, but when Candi went in to check, there was this one pastel kitten with little white paws who simply demanded to be adopted. She meowed insistently, reached through the bars, purring for all she was worth... basically shouting "Take me home! Please!"

Candi came back with me and said that there was this one kitten she couldn't leave behind, and if I could tell which one it was, we should probably adopt her. It was a safe bet. There was nobody else like her there.

Arya was, in many ways, the most un-catlike of any cat I've ever met. She was certainly clumsier than any cat I've known, which is endearing in a species known for its grace. She also lacked that self-conscious, regal pride that is so ubiquitous in cats, and showed none of the typical cat's casual sense of arrogance or aloofness.

Instead, Arya was sweet. She was the sweetest, most adoring cat I have ever known. In her younger days she was also a cannonball of fun and would play until she collapsed panting (she's the only cat I've ever seen pant), though of course she slowed down as the years crept up on her. What never changed was her affectionate, loving character. She had no fear of visitors and would introduce herself to anyone with a barrage of purrs. She even purred when you took her to the vet and held her while they gave her a shot.

She had some difficulties toward the end, as is the nature of getting old. Now she is at rest, and we will always remember the sweet, loving soul who shared so many years with us.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Progress Report: 2/13/12

Announcement: I've got a new website. Go check it out at...

Lots of art and writing on the site for you to peruse, if you are so inclined. It's all part of my master plan to become an all-powerful fiction author!

(That's pretty much an oxymoron. Oh well.)

Speaking of that master plan, I'm back in the saddle again for the agent search. Fortunately, I've got a lot of the groundwork in place and have been to this rodeo a few times, so it's not as intimidating as it once was. I don't think anything can make rejection less disheartening, but at least I'm more used to it now.

I also have a Facebook page out there somewhere, though I think I am going to change it soon. I signed up as an "entity," which turns out to be a pretty stripped-down version of what Facebook offers. So I should probably look into getting on board as a "person" instead. I guess people have more options than entities. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Progress Report: 1/17/12

Well, it's been a tumultuous new year.

The most important news is that my father-in-law passed away over the holidays. His name was Warren Tom Cooper, and he went by Tom. It was funny... in the hospital and hospice, he would let the nurses and doctors call him Warren until he decided that he actually liked them, and then they would get to call him Tom. It was kind of a code. He enjoyed stuff like that.

I've known Tom for over 20 years, and he's been a huge part of my life. Candi's relationship to him was always very close, and when I started seeing her he was immediately supporting and accepting. This was good... standing at 6'4" and built very solidly, he could be a pretty intimidating guy when he didn't approve of something. But when you were family, as I was privileged to be, he would do anything to help you along. That was the way his mother was as well. Both of them taught me so many important lessons in my life.

Right now, the impact of his passing is still setting in. We live in a different world now, Candi and me, and we're still getting used to that new reality. Life has a way of keeping you so busy that it's tricky to just sit with your feelings sometimes, and that has its upside and downside. I will say that this is the first time I've had to be a part of dealing with all the logistics and details of someone dying -- it's quite startling how much there is to do.

Tom was very supportive of my writing, and really helped me out with some of the details about the setting of my first book. So I feel like I can honor him by continuing to write and work towards getting my work published. Which I'm doing.

Just taking it a bit slow. This new world takes some adjustment.